Last week, I read Carry On Warrior which is a collection of essays by Glennon Doyle, whose writing I adore. She is very funny and very honest, and I have almost never read an essay she wrote without laughing, crying, or laugh-crying. My very favorites are her essays on parenting.
Growing up very self-aware about the shenanigans we put our parents through (Sorry about the time we thought it’d be funny to pull K to the second floor using an elevator made of a rope and a canoe seat!) I always thought essays and books about parenting were entertaining. But there’s a caveat- only when they are very very honest. Funny is a plus. I’m not really interested in capital-P-parenting books. I know some people love them, and since A was born I have had no shortage of suggestions of books I should read on various parenting “methods”. But I’m just not sure parenting is something you can apply a methodology to. I think most parents do their best with what they have and what they know. And sure, books about certain sleep techniques or philosophies on discipline can be great- so long as you don’t take them too seriously. And by that I mean, accept that they might work for you and your kids (or parts might, and other parts might not) but that doesn’t mean it’s right for every parent or every kid. Essentially, I think we all need to go into this parenting thing with a lot more acceptance and humor, and a little less judgement, thank you very much. I’m plenty good at beating myself up about all the ways I’m screwing up at parenting, I definitely don’t need any help from family and friends and definitely not strangers in that department.
This gets completely compounded when you have a blended family. When H and I were dating and it was getting serious, I started to think about what types of things I wanted to eventually do with my own kids, not because I was in a hurry, but because he had the twins, and I wanted to be conscious of going ahead and starting some of those traditions with them. I never wanted them to be able to say later that I did something with my own kids that I didn’t do with them. I don’t want them to feel like my stepkids. I kinda hate that “step” word. Sometimes we use it for clarity purposes, but most of the time I just say “my kids”. I’ve always told them that I know they have a mom, and I’m not trying to replace her. But I think of them as my kids, the same way I think of A. But sometimes, because I’m trying so hard to do everything for them that I might someday do for A, I get in too deep.
For example, I’m a PTO dropout. Twice. That’s right, I’m such an overachiever that I quit twice. It became evident very quickly that the PTO wasn’t for me. I only made it to one meeting last year. I’m sure that the PTO moms are great people, but from what I gathered at the first meeting, almost none of them work outside the home. And look, I’m not trying to talk smack about stay-at-home moms. I am careful with my language here because these ladies are working- they just have a more flexible schedule than I do. And short of someone getting me a magic carpet, I can’t get to a 6pm meeting at the school. I also can’t come hand out fundraiser prizes at 10am on a Tuesday. This knowledge didn’t keep me from kind of forgetting over the summer how awful it made me feel, signing up again this year, and quitting again.
Here’s the thing though: the PTO needs dedicated members to do their work. And me being there out of guilt, stressed out because my availability keeps me from signing up for things isn’t helping them. Also, seeing me flustered about getting to a PTO meeting isn’t making the twins feel loved and important. It’s making them feel like a burden which is the last thing I want.
Last Saturday, I went to a workshop in church on discovering your spiritual gifts. Everyone’s are different and we can all serve in unique ways. The PTO isn’t it for me, but it doesn’t make me better or worse than the moms who serve there.
Glennon Doyle has an essay about a phenomenon any young mom can relate to- older women (and sometimes men) telling us to savor every moment because they go by so fast. She ruminates on the fact that these comments always seem to come at a moment that maybe we wish would go by a little faster like when our kids are throwing a fit in the checkout line. She says she hopes to remember this when she’s older and (in a section that always makes me laugh-cry) say instead:
“It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.”
Anyway, it’s my kind of advice. I think all 20 year old women who want to have kids one day should write down all their ideas about parenting… so when they have kids they can open them and laugh and laugh. Despite my insistence that my kid wouldn’t watch TV (and even though I do limit her screen time) my kid’s an Elmo junkie. She also still takes a sippy cup of milk to bed, and we’re working on giving it up, but ya know what, Mama’s are people too, and they have jobs, and have to get at least a little sleep in order to be a functioning human.
We’re all doing the best we can.